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Strategic Planning for Marketing Automation, Part 3: Is your business ready to make the most of new platforms?

This post is part three in “Planning for Marketing Automation and Personalization.” This series is focused on topics related to making sure your marketing approach, digital platforms, and business structure and roles are ready for marketing automation and personalization.  

And now to our final question: is your business ready to make the most of new platforms?

Everyone is in charge of customer experience. Aside from understanding your customers, and their unique needs—realizing the full potential of marketing automation and personalization platforms will require your organization to work together as one, require more attention to be placed on platforms that need regular upgrades, and require new skills your organization is likely struggling with today. Realizing the full potential of these platforms is also predicated on the ability to continuously optimize and react to challenges and opportunities.

Are you structured for customer experience success?

Who is in charge of the customer experience in your organization? While many say “the customer” is in charge, that’s not quite practical advice. But we can certainly say that customers expect a great experience—and that relevant and useful information can help them be in charge—even if what constitutes “great” can vary tremendously.

Helping customers have what they need to “be in charge” of a purchase decision really requires a customer focus where “everyone is in charge”—marketing, sales, product development, and customer service all working together. Without departments working together on behalf of the customer,  no amount of technology will fix a lack of necessary enterprise agility.

While the goal of marketing traditionally has been to craft the brand and its values and promote the products and services in the best way, what has been missing is the ability to ensure that the promise aligns with reality—and that’s what a focus on customer experience is designed to do.

Marketing automation and personalization are approaches designed to work across the entire customer journey—because your customers think of you as one company regardless of who funds the technology. In the sense of “not wasting their time,” potential customers don’t expect you to forget what you know about them as they move along their journey, even if they remain anonymous until the very end. And no current customers enjoy being bounced around when they need support or service.

From a planning perspective, a structural focus on customer experience needs to be in place before technology and content can play their role.

Are you ready to take advantage of new platforms that change frequently?

Said another way, will you be continuously preparing for the future?

If you want to get the full potential out of your platforms, you need to fully understand their capabilities. And true to the promise of cloud-based software as a service, your business too must embrace change over stagnation.

Here are three points to consider as you think about managing your ever-growing martech stack:

  • Your business needs to be of the agile mindset that values continuous improvement—taking advantage of new powerful features that are added frequently to modern platforms—not waiting to tackle “major upgrades” every year or more.
  • You need to keep each piece of technology solidly-integrated with the others in your stack—nothing should be designed or considered as standalone. And someone has to be in charge of looking ahead at upcoming solutions/upgrades and preparing to make use of them as soon as they are available.
  • Most businesses struggle with optimizing redundant capabilities and dealing with “feature confusion”—it’s highly likely you will have several platforms that promise the same things, but not in the same way. Someone has to be thinking about which is best, and optimize licensing and fees—while not making customers have a worse experience.

Do you have the right people skills?

Marketing roles are changing and evolving quickly—and marketing technology will change your business. But new roles and new skills are critical to managing the continuous nature of a more individualized environment—and keep all the platforms running at their best. Of course, everyone needs to be more technically-minded, but your business should already be staffing for these highly-transformed skill sets if you want to make use of marketing automation and personalization:

  • Marketing technologists—have the ability to set the direction of major technology platforms as they enable customer experience strategy; manage connections/integrations between suites and disparate platforms; understand upgrades and evolution plans and be able to collaborate with IT and corporate governance, security, complex, data-driven partnering opportunities, etc.
  • Creative technologists—in a world where content has become an “atomic unit” of personalized marketing, creative execution will also involve daily manipulation of technical automation and personalization configurations across email, advertising, social executions, websites, and commerce—to ensure the right content is delivered at the right time to everyone.
  • Data scientists—It’s a misconception that marketers don’t know how to do math, but today metrics are a part of everything. And really everyone needs the ability to configure, combine and analyze cross-business, ERP-level data with the click-experience-actions across the complete customer journey—to immediately understand the statistical effectiveness of the human experience and ultimately make the tiniest tweaks every day.

If you’re reading this and have work to do, you’re not alone. Stats from General Assembly (a job training company) state that 40% of marketing jobs seek candidates with digital experience, and these jobs take 16% longer to fill.

At the same time, the need for specific roles may be short-lived. Gartner predicts that “40% of specialized mobile and social marketing jobs will be absorbed into generalist roles or replaced by automation by year-end 2022.”

Even if the latest news implies that rules-based personalization is being supplanted by automated machine learning and AI-based platforms, humans are going to be directly involved in marketing for many years to come—but definitely in a more technical, assistive way.

In conclusion

This series was designed to introduce you to major topics when considering integrating marketing automation and personalization into your digital experience. From thinking about how to go further with breaking down what your customers really want, to turning this knowledge into journey directed site structure and useful content (that customers need), to thinking about whether your business is structurally ready—there’s a lot to consider in order to be successful. Far from simply selecting and integrating a technology platform, care and feeding are far more important, and being prepared in advance is never the wrong approach.

Most brands and businesses have an incredible number of threats and challenges in coming years—from changes in societal positions regarding data protection, continued bad actors creating distrust in places people seek out both news and research purchases, and the disruption of traditional distribution channels.

But when it comes to trying to create a better customer experience, I believe the key principles and suggestions in this series all pave the way to better success. So if you’re not up to speed in each of these areas, I hope this gives you some good ideas and gets the ball rolling in your organization.